Saturday, February 27, 2010

butterfly garden: 18 months later

almost a year and a half ago, we did a workshop at the store with Back to Natives Restoration, a non-profit that is, " is dedicated to the restoration and conservation of Orange County and California wildlands, through education and restoration".
the workshop, in the heat of summer, was the gutting of the horrible vine mess we had in the parking lot and replacing it with native, insect attracting plants that would use little water.

(what we started with-straight up nasty!)

when the blog first started, i posted about the growth of the little garden. This weekend, i went out to look at it again since we are having a workshop about native gardening & upkeep on March 6th...all of a sudden it hit me-dang this thing got huge!

(right after installation of the native butterfly garden, 18 months ago)

(can you even see the butterfly sign anymore!?)

Can you believe that i watered this only the first 4 weeks after it was planted-no joke! i havent touched it aside from taking sage leaves for food/gift wrap and cleaning out the little pieces of liter that blow into it from time to time.
fortunately the past month or so has been pretty wet in Southern CA, which i am thankful for (i am really terrified of the drought and the absolute ignorance of most of the population of it in this area). the rain has made the garden grow event the point of needing a trim.

**MAINTAINING YOUR NATIVE GARDEN workshop will be held March 6th from 10-noon**

Thursday, February 25, 2010

CSA cooking: Kumquat Vodka

basket inventory: lots of kale and carrots, lettuces, cilantro, rosemary, tangerines, blood oranges, mandarins, limes, lemons, kumquats, broccoli, avos, mac nuts, sprouts

yes more kumquats...but i thought this might be a good one for the adults in the crowd.
NOTE: if you want to make this for a party, you need to start a few weeks in advanced so that you have a well developed flavor.

  • 1 liter/5-6 c. good vodka
  • 2 c sugar
  • 1 pound well washed kumquats
pierce the quats a few times do that they can soak up the booze. dump them into a sterilized glass jar/pickling container and add sugar. add the vodka and close the container well. let it sit for about 2 weeks or until the sugar is dissolved...
i should be doing a follow-up to this recipe in a few weeks!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

easy chalkboard project

so i have been wanting to have a working chalkboard in the store to post events..we have decorative, temporary ones made from spare pieces of wood and good old chalkboard paint (love it!) but i wanted a bigger version that looked more like a chalkboard and less like a piece of wood with chalkboard paint.
Sabre told me a while ago about this wallpaper treatment that she does using a non-toxic glue and recycled paper pieces, she also does this brown-bag paper application that looks a lot like a leather wallpaper that she has used on walls before...we ended up using it as a a fake-wood lining for the chalkboard...awesome way to make a "custom" frame without spending a ton of money right!?! i have no idea how she made it, but i do know that she will be doing a workshop on this in a few months, let me know if you are interested.

(piece of wood, chalkboard paint, paper "frame")
i guess you have to "prime" chalkboards with a bunch of chalk?? didnt know that but this is the finished product....costs about $20.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

talk about small

we have a pretty tiny place, about 400 sqft, but while reading Rachel Hulan's blog The Interior Revolution, i saw a post on a small design solution: 178 sqft...yikes!
(all photos from NY Times)

it seems to be a contradiction that more things in a small space makes a bigger space...but with artful, purposeful placement of things you can have room without feeling like you are in a subject from Hoarders (now to tell my boyfriend this about his "man cave" in the garage).
some of the elements applied in this situation was to create furniture groupings that are obvious and have them be established as the "room" you want. i need to figure this concept out with our living room as it needs to function as dining area, entertainment, work and TV space.
I also noticed that the coffee table in the designer's home (Zach Motl) can crack up to dining height, so some pieces that are transformers are also good to have.
Motl also stacked similar objects together to make collections and turn them into sculptures..,i kind of do this with books on the coffee table, only problem is that we always have to move them around when we eat, but i do like the look of the books, it adds personality to a space!

hidden spaces seem to be helpful too-a bed with a storage area under or a trunk that can hold items and double as a bench or coffee table.
the article is worth a look, especially if you are about to move/redecorate and have a small space, i am definitely looking at my living room differently.

If you want to read the article in full, click here.


I just recently found these super cute canning jars from Weck....i know i am probably the last person to find about about this company, but i literally feel like a kid staring at the computer screen thinking about how cute these would look with yummy preserves in them!
again my birthday is in May, so there is plenty of time to to order a case-if you do i will give you a jar back with something yummy for you...

i love these for even refrigeration storage, very Parisian country! they even have adorable juice containers.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

CSA cooking: Kumquats in Honey

basket inventory: kale, chard (rainbow!), sprouts, radish, 2 kinds of lettuce, mandarins, tangerines, limes, lemons, strawberries, celery, kumquats, herbs

Kumquats seem to have a limited number of uses, most of the time people just eat them raw...but after a few weeks, that can be a little too much. Our CSA has been serving up kumquats for the past few weeks and i have accumulated a little stockpile of them...perfect time for canning.
This reminded me of a recipe i have been using from Linda Ziedrich's: The Joy of Jam, Jellies and Other Sweet Preserves.

Honeyed Kumquats
(from The Joy of Jam, Jellies and Other Sweet Preserves)

  • 1 # stemmed kumquats
  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • 3/4c. sugar
  • 1/2c. honey
let the kumquats sit in boiling water for 10 min, rinse them then slit each one and boil them in water for another 10 min.
in a saucepan, combine the other items, add kumquats and boil together for 25, set aside for at least 8 hours.
pour into a jar and put in the fridge, lasts a month at least OR...
heat the mixture again, skim off foam and ladle into jars leaving 1" head space. process in a boiling water bath for 15 min.

(honey from Backyard Bees)

(bees really like the warmed honey mix)

this recipe is incredible for ice cream and super for making a simple cake gourmet.

NOTE: if you are making this in the daytime, you kitchen might fill-up with bees (we had about 15 bees my little kitchen while making this)! make it at night if you are afraid of them.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

a rainy afternoon with Joanne-lemon curd recipe

(garden hod-my new favorite item)

my good friend from high school, Victoria of Worst Date/Roommate/Job fame told me months ago that her mother, Joanne has an amazing English garden that she wanted to learn how to preserve from-she is a big-time cook. after phone-tag and chance meetings, we finally snagged a date to hang out and make some amazing things.

(from this)

(to this)

(to this!)

this past Tuesday, i loaded up the car with dreams of roses and lemon curd racing though my brain to Joanne's. what i found was a more than your typical garden and tons more than your typical woman...
Joanne Namkung not only spends hours helping to run their family's non-profit Kids of Kilimanjaro-a feat in itself, but has a passion for food and growing that is intoxicating the moment you walk in their cannot help but be ready to learn and make some serious food!
after bringing in my barrage of canning/preserving items, i had a tour of a dream kitchen-fit for the food lover and a garden that shouted the English poets' stanza on budding Sweet Pea leaves happily taking in the rain storm...

(artichokes-still need a month or so)

(my birthday is May 5th)

but enough of that, on to the merriment that is cooking:
the goal of our afternoon was to make a few items that required little of conventional sugar and made use of her yard. Joanne had a few citrus trees and two of them were absolutely covered with lemons of all shapes and sizes. But first, we decided to make traditional fermented pickles.

(old-school Clausen pickles, about to be brined)
Next we juiced about 12 cups of lemons (not even a dent in the tree) and made preserved lemons. Both Joanne and George are not fans of sugar, so what to do? luckily i brought a huge container of agave nectar and we ended up making some pretty awesome margarita mix and lemon curd...Joanne almost had a freak with how good it turned out-can't see it lasting long. see recipe below...
i have known Joanne for well over 15 years-but i have only known her as my friend's mother. Spending time with her on Tuesday was something different...we have a lot in common and i got to know an amazing woman who i can easily see as a friend with more adventures in creating yummy things. i cant wait to spend more time with her (in fact her celery soup was this weeks recipe for CSA cooking)...more to come i am sure!

(bubbling the lemon curd)

(the finished product-we will be repeating this one FOR SURE!)

  • 6tbs softened butter
  • 2/3c agave nectar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3c lemon juice
  • fresh lemon zest
beat the butter and agave in a bowl with an electric mixer until blended well. slowly add the eggs and beat another minute or so. the mixture may look clumped but that's OK, it will settle itself out.
pour in a heavy-bottom saucepan and slowly heat the mix. when the butter melts, turn up the heat to med/med-high and stir constantly (remember to get the sides of the pot too-burning will ruin it!). keep stirring until it coats the back of the spoon. cool-lasts about 3-4 weeks in the fridge and 6-9mo frozen.

CSA cooking: Celery Soup

basket inventory: 2 kinds of lettuce, large bunch of chard, arugula, dill, rosemary, sprouts, tangerines, Valencia oranges, celery, limes, kumquats, mandarins, radishes, strawberries, avocados, Meyer lemons

I recently had the most amazing soup while teaching a preserving class at Joanne's house a few days ago. She graciously made me this AMAZING celery soup that had a number of servings of. What i love about the way Joanne made this soup is that she omitted cream and potatoes, 2 items that can mask the flavor of of home-grown celery. Fresh celery has an incredible clean-earthy flavor that is so fitting to the cold, rainy weather we have been having and this soup captures it perfectly. I also used the celery from our little garden for this recipe-our first harvest! i changed only a few items from the original recipe.

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 6 c chopped celery
  • 2 onions chopped
  • 1 large potato (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 21/2 c water or veggie broth
  • s&p, cayenne (i added curry)
  • Toasted baguette AND/OR
  • Handful of parm (to make toasted pieces)
chop celery (i added leaves), onions and garlic and saute with oil in a stick pot to sweat for at least 10 min or until soft. add spices/season, saute for 5 min. add stock and heat.
puree (careful with hot liquids!!) until smooth. put through a food mill if needed (or if you have one, or a sieve).

put back into pot and heat. season and taste to can add cream if you want (or soy) but you really dont need it if you put the work into puree.
toast bread or handfuls of parm-cheese and add to soup or have alone-it is that good!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

busy, busy weekend

this seems to be the norm these days, but i had another super busy weekend...lots of things happened...busy but incredibly fun!

shop was buzzing and was still doing last minute organizing of our new calendar and website up-loads (no me gusta html). but we finally finished the final touches of our much anticipated calendar of events for at least the next 2 months (if not 4!). More fermentation classes, a series of workshops devoted to all sorts of fiber arts, lectures and writing workshops, name it! see what we have been up to HERE.
Sabre, our fiber arts instructor has also been busy at work designing our awesome looking print calendar...they should be popping up here and there...i still can't believe how quickly she put the dang thing together.
After work, we went by our friends Kelly and Patrick for a delicious dinner (mostly from their garden), wine and a noteworthy Greyhound made from backyard grapefruits and honey from their hives!

(let the meeting begin!)

(working-kind of...!!)

But the real reason we were there (besides hanging out!): doing the initial planning stages of the Urban Homestead Festival, an all-day event dedicated to celebrating and educating the public to be self-sufficient and creating the farm-in suburbia! STAY TUNED for more on this!!

After a night of too many Greyhounds, we packed the VW up for my monthly stint at the Hollywood Farmers' Market bright and early and traveled up the 5 freeway with some amazing views of snow-covered mountains and the Hollywood sign. Although we were an hour late, we were still able to see old friends and some familiar faces.

(regular who LOVES kraut!)

First was Andy Richter of the Tonight Show-right in back of us at the organic coffee stand. he was kind of going incognito with a hat and sunglasses but we recognized him quickly from our stint at a film screening that we had covered for Crazy Days and Nights a while back.
Not too long after we spent a good amount of time with beloved TV host Huell Houser. This was a real treat-he was like a rock star with tons of people coming up and shaking his hand-remembering past shows...this guys is a real gentleman! He had actually attended my boyfriend's book signing a while back and had a lengthy talk...totally remembered him and talked about the Master Food Preserver program as well. we were surprised when he later came by to show us what he bought and chatted some more talking of stories and had us all laughing...GREAT guy if you ever have the chance to meet him.

(Huell bought this gorg wooden bowling ball made from discarded wood)

Not too long after i had a glimpse of a favorite that i had seen before: BOOGER (actor Curtis Armstrong) from Revenge of the Nerds. i had seen him earlier, but never got the chance to take a picture and again he was out of sight before i could think of my camera. an hour later i saw him a a few yards away and tried to do my best "take a pix in disguise", when Kevin shouted out, "Mr Booger! my friend noticed you and she is a big fan." Booger, um Curtis, happily came by and took this word: AWESOME.

(photo with "Mr Booger"...priceless..)

Our shopping had a specific agenda as i had a class at Felix's KTCHN 105 in a few hours. This class- Preserving the Season is centered around what the market had to offer so i basically did all of my shopping there...what to buy!?!

(have to use these GORG cauliflower heads and carrots)

i ended up buying items for Hot Pickled Carrots and Cauliflower using green and white cauliflower and white, red and orange carrots...this looked incredible as a about gourmet pickles!
i also got an incredible deal on kiwi fruit ($12 for a case!), and strawberries for jam and a large bag of basil for basil jelly-a fave in the shop.
by the time we arrived at KTCHN 105 i had 1 hour to prep, print recipes and shove some bread in my mouth before the students arrived...each student walked out with 9 jars of delicious goodies. below are some pix of the class:

(Super Bowl...what Super Bowl..)

Met some new faces and spent some time with familiar faces/friends like Greer of Greer's OC, by the time we got home (with a stop at Avanti and print shop for the calendars)...i was in much need of a champs and good TV.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Farmers' Market sighting-contest

i either saw, talked to or got pictures with more than one famous face this past market. each correct guess will receive a preserve. guess all 3 before anyone and get 3 preserves (and a hi-five b/c you are a stud :). you cannot participate if i told you (i was so excited about some of them that i spilled the beans early!) cheating! Answers will be posted in a few days.

1. Member of a recently SUPER popular late night show. Hint: He had a cameo on Arrested Development...

2. This beloved TV host was a rock star at the market today...he probably would be popular in any California farmers' market for that matter.

3. This actor has been in this space before. his famous character is in a popular cult film of the 80's.

Friday, February 5, 2010

CSA, CSF and perhaps CSAG??

i just recently posted about a variation of the CSA in the south with fish (or CSF)...well it looks like there might be another addition to the growing market of close-loop producer/customer food distribution: Community Support Artisan Goods.
this was actually an idea from fellow Master Food Preserver and friend Ernest Miller, who thought this could be an additional service for those already in a CSA program (PS to find out what a CSA is, click here).
so, what am i still talking about, what is a CSAG?


(AND this)

members of the CSAG will receive a monthly or bi-monthly basket containing a number of preserved goods. at least 6 jars but up to 10 of items like: apple butter, pickles, jams, salsas/condiments, but also dried foods or salted items (beef jerky??). all made from local, organic ingredients. just like a regular CSA, you would pick up this "basket" with your other fresh items or they can be available at drop-offs at farmers' markets.
ideas floating around right now are to have subscriptions start at $60 a month, with a 3 month (time) period.
any thoughts??

Thursday, February 4, 2010

food preservation workshops

working like a dog for the past few weeks getting together a line-up of classes. there are a number of locations and interests below.
* if you want to sign up for a class, just click on the link of that particular class and sign up! you can email me too if you have questions or have other class ideas. MORE TO COME!

*FEB 7th: Preserving the Season- KITCN 105, downtown LA, 2:30-5:30
General canning from fresh-from-market goodies in an amazing culinary space! Shopping locally tips and produce selection also covered.

*FEB 13th: Fermentation 1: old school foods-kraut and kimchi- Road Less Traveled Store, 1:30-3:30
Learn the basics of food preservation while making sauerkraut and spicy kimichi. Class will cover fermentation basics, recipe guide, samples and a short history of this old-school method of keeping food alive. All materials included.

*FEB 28th: Foraging and Preparing Wild Foods- Road Less Traveled Store, 11-1PM
Naturalist Joel Robinson and MFP Delilah Snell will be lecturing on what foods you can harvest from our local wild areas while you feast on a lunch made up of various harvested goods. Identification/field guide and recipes will be included.

*MARCH 4th: Fermentation 2: Vinegar, Tonics and Yogurt-Road Less Traveled Store, 6:30-8:30PM
This course is a follow-up to Fermentation 1 (not required). Learn how healthy bacteria create savory vinegars, Kombucha and natural yogurt. Mother cultures, samples and take-home procedures are included in workshop. Taught by Chef Ernest Miller, Master Food Preserver.

*MARCH 7th: Farmers' Market Canning Demo-Hollywood Farmers' Market, 9-1pm
Join me and Ernest at the Hollywood Farmers' Market as we do outdoor demos on simple canning techniques.

*MARCH 7th: Pickles and More-KTCHN 105-downtown LA, 2:30-5:30PM
Learn how to make fermented and fresh-packed pickles of all types. Course covers: preparation, food safety, equipment operation, recipes and samples. Students receive an instruction pamphlet and products from the class.

*MARCH 20th: Food Preservation 2, Chilies- Road Less Traveled Store (link coming soon)
Make your own hot sauce! Learn to preserve chilies in a number of different methods. Course covers drying, canning variations and making a few hot sauces. Samples, recipe book, take home samples and discussion of pepper varieties will be covered.

We also have a number of classes at the store too, please click here if you want to see the full calendar...check often as things will be added weekly...hope to see you soon!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

CSA cooking: Bok Choy salad-Gwyneth Paltrow edition

Basket Inventory: mexican guavas, oranges, lemons, limes, mandarins, beets, kale, chard, mac nuts, passion fruit, carrots, dill, cilantro, bok choy

very, very interesting and telling that we received bok choy, carrots and cilantro because that is what i will be needing for this take on Gwennie's GOOP recipe for "Vietnamese Salad". i saw a link to this on one of my fave gossip blogs, Crazy Days and Nights and i noticed that the recipe uses fish sauce...some people do not eat that and i decided to make a variation, but with a few (and might i even say better) changes. i recently made the salad for Gustavo's birthday party and it was a hit! the following recipe is for 8 people or one large salad bowl.

GOOP-FREE SALAD (aka Bok Choy Salad):

1 lg bok choy (or 3-4 of the baby bok choy), shredded
4-6 leaves of napa cabbage (or do 1/2 & 1/2 red cabbage for color), shredded
carrots, julienne- as many as you want, it is your salad!
radishes sliced
cilantro, purple basil, spring onions sliced finely
handful of salted peanuts
1/4c rice wine vinegar
1/4c Braggs Amino Acids
1/4c lime juice
-the above use as your base, add the following ingredients starting with 1 tsp. shake then taste and add more until you find something you like.
minced garlic and ginger
agave nectar or honey
hot pepper or regular sesame oil

about the fish sauce. fish sauce is the umami ingredient, if you want to replace it, think umami-mushrooms! Try a hint of Better than Bouilion in Mushroom and make a paste, add it to your dressing. Vietnamese grocery stores carry veggie versions of fish sauce too! in all honestly, this was completely fine without it! see here is you want to find out more or want alternatives.

(i actually used celery tops in my salad-i like crunch!)

(what it looked like at gustavo's b-day)

a clever idea for sealing wine!

i love vintage etsy seller, Little Byrd Vintage...cute items and displays, very much what i like for the shop and my own personal taste these days (also gives me great ideas of what to look for this summer on 127 yard sale)

just recently i noticed this cute wine stopper whose top was from a vintage glass doorknob. this looks pretty simple, i am going to try it!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

adventures with avanti-of course with margies

(says Mark-excellent!)

a lesson in combining things you love:
(the cooking area)

(a yummy mistake)

(mistakes are gooooood)
for the past few years, i have been wanting to go to culinary school. having a biz, little funds and time really do not make that accessible-but something inside me really and truly wants to learn about cooking..i have to admit that as much as i love what i do, i am realizing that i love the food industry more and do i make it work?
(found the margies!)

Chef Tanya and Mark of my fave restaurant Avanti Cafe have allowed me to intern every couple weeks. i cant believe that i can even do something like this-but these dear friends are allowing me to work their kitchen and gain experience in my personal culinary adventures that in the 2 shifts i have worked, have been a yummy lesson...
this past Friday was my second shift in which i cleaned, made orders and waited on a party of 18 (all with supervision!). i see a lot of people from the store and life in general, and although i cannot spend time talking to them, i love that i have reconnected with those whom i haven't seen in a long time. i will be posting about my "adventures" a few times a month along with what i have learned, what i ate and who i met... what a great experience!

(after the shift: margie extravaganza!)

(yes Mark-gulp, gulp)